UN agency for Palestinians seeks funds after US cuts

Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl, waves to refugee school girls on his arrival for a press conference to launch the global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. The main UN agency for Palestinian refugees launched an “unprecedented” appeal seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in response to funding cuts by the Trump administration. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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UN agency for Palestinians seeks funds after US cuts

GAZA CITY: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Monday launched an “unprecedented” appeal seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in response to funding cuts by the Trump administration.
Last week the State Department notified the UN Relief and Works Agency that the US is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. It also made clear that additional US donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticized by Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel’s establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region. UNWRA provides them with education, health and welfare services.
UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, on Monday called the decision “abrupt and harmful.”
He said the agency will create new funding alliances and get the UN secretary-general involved in high-level ministerial meetings to generate donations from countries.
The “Dignity is Priceless” campaign aims to raise $500 million to ensure that the agency’s core services are unaffected.
“We cannot accept that this investment in education, in health care, and in dignity and respect would be interrupted in any way. It’s much too risky for the entire Middle East,” Krahenbuhl warned.
The US is UNWRA’s largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its budget. The agency focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
In Gaza, more than 1.3 million residents — half the population — rely on food and other services provided by the agency. On Monday, Gaza businesses went on a partial strike to protest the economic situation.
Notices on the shuttered doors read “we want to live” and “enough of siege,” referring to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took over the territory in 2007.


Israeli police arrest 19 Palestinians at Jerusalem holy site

Updated 20 February 2019
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Israeli police arrest 19 Palestinians at Jerusalem holy site

JERUSALEM: Israeli police say they have arrested 19 Palestinians as clashes broke out at a contested Jerusalem holy site.
Police say dozens of Palestinians participated in a prayer protest Tuesday, attempting to breach a section of the compound that has been closed by Israeli court order for years.
Palestinian medics reported that several protesters were injured in the standoff.
The incident follows a similar scuffle on Monday in which Palestinians tried to break the gate that Israel placed on the closed area last week.
The compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
Any trace of Israeli security interference in the shrine, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, can ignite violence.